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How to become a psychotherapist scotland

You’ll need to complete:

  • a degree in psychology or a related subject like nursing, medicine or social work
  • an accredited postgraduate qualification
  • 450 hours of practice to be registered as a licensed psychotherapist by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)

Your course should be one recognised by the:

Courses can take up to 4 years to complete.

To become a child psychotherapist, you will need to complete 4 years of training with the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP).

You’ll also need experience of working with children or vulnerable adults.

Some courses may expect you go into therapy yourself during your training. This is to help you deal with any issues that may affect you as a therapist, as well as to experience therapy from a client’s point of view.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More Information

Academic requirements/experience

For entry to our MSc you must have a:

  • 2:1 or above Undergraduate degree or a Masters degree
  • certificate in counselling skills; completed or in the process of completion. This could be the COSCA certificate (offered by the Centre for Lifelong Learning) or the equivalent. The equivalent must contain at least 40 hours of counselling skills practice in triads, teach the basics of person-centred counselling and make use of large or tutor groups for processing.
  • strong personal statement about why you’ve chosen to work with the person-centred approach

For entry to our part-time programme, we’re also considering the below:

  • a 2:2 or above Undergraduate degree plus;
    • COSCA certificate (or equivalent)
    • substantial experience working in the field of mental health
    • strong personal statement
  • other qualifications deemed acceptable, together with;
    • 10 years plus of experience working in the field of mental health
    • COSCA certificate (or equivalent)
    • strong personal statement

We do receive more applications than we have places to offer and the calibre of applicant is high.

If your application passes the initial selection process you’ll be invited for a three-hour interview. For our full-time programme this will be held at the end of February or the beginning of March. At your interview you’ll be observed by two tutors and expected to:

  • participate in a small group discussion to observe your communication skills
  • demonstrate your counselling skills in a short triad exercise
  • share why you’ve applied for the course to observe your personality and interests

For international students it will be as above. However, if the time zone doesn’t permit you attending a group interview you’ll be offered an individual interview with two tutors to make up the triad. The procedure will be similar to the above and will last up to one hour.

The aim of the interview is also for you to ask questions about the course to see if it’s right for you.

If you’re successful at this interview you’ll be made an offer of a place on our MSc. You’ll need to reply to that offer within three weeks to secure your place on the course.

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Due to stiff competition for funded places deferral is not normally offered.

Adult psychotherapist

Adult psychotherapists work with adults to assess and treat a range of emotional, social or mental health issues.  

You’ll help adults tackle problems such as behavioural issues, common challenges such as anxiety and depression or more complex or severe issues, such as psychosis or a personality disorder diagnosis.   

Working life

Treatment usually begins with an assessment which takes place over a number of sessions between you and the patient. 

Having trained in one or more psychotherapeutic approaches, you will provide therapy to help people change the ways they think and behave or find better ways to cope. This therapy will provide space for them to express their feelings and gain a deeper insight into the issues they face. This could include group sessions. 

Where will I work? 

You are likely to work in: 

  • hospitals
  • local clinics and health centres
  • in the community
  • an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service

You’ll also work in a multi-disciplinary team including mental health nurses, psychiatrists and a range of other psychological professionals.

Entry requirements 

To practise as an adult psychotherapist, you’ll need to undertake appropriate recognised training. You’ll usually need an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject and/or be a qualified and experienced healthcare practitioner, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health nurse or social worker. 

To secure a place on a psychotherapy training course, you will also need to be able to demonstrate that you have relevant experience. 

Employers will indicate through the job description/person specification exactly which qualifications they will consider when selecting applicants for psychotherapist roles. 


Training usually takes four years, combining study with clinical training under supervision and provided by a number of organisations, which are usually accredited by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy or the British Psychoanalytic Council.

Clinical training consists of intensive treatment of patients carried out under supervision. Clinical discussions combining theory and practice are held throughout the period of training. Alongside your training, you will be expected to undertake your own personal therapy to build your self-awareness and expand on your ability to relate to others.  

The application process for psychotherapy training is administered directly by the individual organisations running the courses.

Must-have skills  

You’ll need a range of skills to be a psychotherapist, including: 

  • a keen awareness of people and their behaviour
  • a capacity for study and continued learning
  • the ability to relate to a wide range of people
  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to work on your own as well as in consultation with others
  • a responsible, professional approach, respecting the confidentiality of patients
  • emotional resilience and maturity
  • self awaren



  • the ability to empathise with others and make positive relationships


  • an openness to addressing issues of prejudice and oppression 


Recommended training

We recommended a three stage route which can take three or four years. As well as attending tuition, you’ll spend a lot of time on independent study, placements, supervision and, in some cases, personal therapy.

Stage 1: Introduction to counselling

Taking an introductory course will help you decide if counselling is the right career for you. This will help you gain basic counselling skills and give you an overview of what the training involves before you commit fully. These courses are usually run at local further education (FE) colleges or adult education centres and last from eight to 12 weeks.

Stage 2: Certificate in counselling skills

This will develop your counselling skills and give you a deeper understanding of counselling theories, ethics and self-awareness. This training may also be useful if your job involves advising or helping people, even if you don’t plan to become a therapist. These courses run at local colleges and are generally one year part-time.

Stage 3: Core practitioner training

This will give you the skills, knowledge and competence to work as a counsellor or psychotherapist. Your core practitioner training should be at the minimum level of a diploma in counselling or psychotherapy, but could be a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate. These courses usuall run at further or higher education colleges or universities.

Your training should be an in-depth professional practitioner training programme, based on internationally recognised standards of quality and competence, providing training in reflective, competent and ethical practice. To meet our membership and accreditation requirements it must include:

  • knowledge based learning – for example, psychological theories and their application to practice, philosophy, human development, common medications, ethics and the law, functioning of groups and supervision
  • therapeutic competences – for example, monitoring and evaluation, relationship building, communications, strategies and interventions, self-awareness, reflective practice and use of supervision
  • research awareness – for example, critical awareness of research findings, methodology and application

Your course should be at least one year full-time or two years’ part-time classroom-based tuition. It should also include an integral, supervised placements of at least 100 hours, allowing you to work within an organisation and practise your skills with clients under supervision. 

Are you looking for a rewarding career in which you can genuinely help people and enrich their lives? Becoming a therapist may be an excellent choice for you. While people often assume therapists have to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, there are a few different training and educational paths you can take toward this fulfilling career.

What Do Therapists Do?

The term “therapist” is often a used generically to describe a number of health care professionals who provide mental health services to clients. For instance, a clinical psychologist and licensed professional counselor may both work with a variety of mental health concerns in various settings.

One of the primary differences in therapists is that a psychologist has a Ph.D. while a counselor typically holds a master’s degree.

Some career paths can also take you into a particular specialty. A substance abuse therapist works with people dealing with addiction while a marriage and family therapist focuses on relationship issues. Likewise, a licensed school psychologist works with children in a school system.

A licensed social worker often works in the broader community, though this can have specialties as well. You might choose to focus on families, schools, public health, substance abuse, corrections, or the community in general.

Yet another career option is to study for a degree as a rehabilitation therapist. In this path, you may do a mixture of work with mental health as well as the physical health side. It primarily involves working with people who have disabilities or injuries to help them get the most out of their lives.

These are some of the more common examples and there are additional types of practice that you can pursue. If you have a particular interest, discuss it with an advisor and they can point out all your options.

Assess Your Interests and Goals

While becoming a therapist might be your goal, the steps that you take to achieve it depends largely on the type of therapist you want to become. Therapists work in a wide range of settings and with diverse populations, so start your planning process by considering where you would like to work.

Do you want to work with children? Becoming a clinical psychologist or licensed social worker are good options for reaching this goal. If on the other hand, you are interested in working with families or couples, a licensed marriage and family therapist or mental health counselor may be right for you.

Do you want to help people overcome substance abuse problems? A degree in clinical psychology or mental health counseling might be a good option. As you might quickly realize, there are nearly as many degree options as there are job descriptions for different types of therapists.

By getting a general idea of what you would like to achieve as a therapist, you will be in a better position to select a school and choose a degree option.

Learn About Therapy Degree Options

If your goal is to become a therapist, your first step will probably be to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, people with undergraduate degrees in other fields are often accepted into graduate training programs provided they make up some of the prerequisite coursework.

Sociology, education, and health sciences are also good choices for students interested in becoming therapists. While an advanced degree in psychology can open up a wide variety of career options, there are several other program choices that you may also want to consider. The amount of time and training required to complete each degree varies.

Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Psychology

Earning a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in psychology offers perhaps the widest range of career options. Professionals who have earned a doctorate and become licensed psychologists can work with clients in a wide range of settings, including private practice.

Earning a doctorate often takes between four and eight years of study beyond an undergraduate degree.

Master’s in Psychology

In some states, individuals with a master’s degree can become licensed psychologists. Master’s degree holders can also work in a number of different mental health care settings. It is important to check the guidelines in your state to determine what type of services you can provide with this degree.

Master’s Degree in Counseling

If you are interested in working with children, adults, families, or couples, becoming a licensed professional counselor can be a great choice. It requires a master’s degree in counseling.

The 60 credits required to complete the degree can take between two and three years. This is dependent on your schedule and the individual program in which you are enrolled. In many cases, you may also have to complete an additional 12 to 16 credit hours of training to become licensed in your state.

Master’s Degree in Social Work

Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) usually complete two years of coursework beyond the undergraduate degree. It also often involves an internship and supervised experience directly in the field.

Individuals with a master’s in social work are often able to provide therapy to clients in a wide variety of settings and situations.

Master’s Degree in Advanced Psychiatric Nursing

This often-overlooked degree option is a great choice for nurses who have an interest in mental health. Advanced psychiatric nurses are required to have a master’s degree or higher in psychiatric-mental health nursing. This can take anywhere from two to three years to complete beyond the bachelor’s degree.

A Word From Verywell

After you have chosen the educational path that is right for your unique needs and interests, it is important to discuss your options with an academic counselor at the school of your choice.

Prepare a list of questions about the specific degree requirements and state licensing guidelines for therapists. It’s also wise to learn demographic information about students who have graduated from the program. With the right information and some careful thought, you’ll be on your way to a therapy career.

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